GUWAHATI, June 3 - In a bid to promote the use of bicycles as a sustainable mode of transport in the city and other urban areas of the State, Bicycle Mayor of Guwahati Arshel Akhter has urged the State government to encourage and motivate people towards sustainable, safe, affordable, equitable and healthy urban mobility options like bicycles.
In a letter addressed to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal � which is also part of the �Reset With Cycling� campaign initiated by the bicycle mayors of over 40 cities across India to engage with their state and local administration to promote cycling as an urban mobility solution � Akhter, who is co-founder of Pedal for a Change Guwahati, said that the bicycle is a smart urban commuting solution that, due to its size, does not take up much road space to cause traffic congestion, does not release harmful carbon emissions to pollute the air while at the same time, achieves social distancing. Cycling has proved to be effective in many countries and they are prioritising it, he opined.
Pointing out that so-called modern lifestyles are hastening climate change, causing numerous untimely deaths through chronic health problems and road accidents, air pollution and lack of physical activity, and causing traffic congestion, the letter said that the situation is likely to trigger future crises that might be deadlier than the present one.
�We need to encourage and motivate people towards sustainable, safe, affordable and equitable urban mobility options like bicycles. WHO recommends cycling during the coronavirus crisis and beyond, saying better bicycle accessibility can support economic recovery after COVID-19 besides improving public health and quality of life and helping cities to become more resilient to future shocks,� Akhter�s letter added.
Stating that cities like Berlin, Bogota, Auckland, Budapest and Mexico City are rolling out �emergency� cycle lanes to boost bicycle use during the COVID-19 epidemic, with some of them planning to increase the permanent cycling network, Akhter said that in New York, San Francisco, Berlin and across the UK bicycle shops are considered an essential service and allowed to remain open.
�France has declared that post ending of their lockdown �the bicycle will be the principle means of transport enabling social distancing�. In the United Kingdom 2 billion pounds have been allocated this month for cycling and walking facilities alone,� he said.
In India too, he added, Bengaluru�s city administration has taken initiatives to encourage cycling, while in Kerala three cities Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode have earmarked city roads only for cycling, walking and running for up to five hours a day.
�In Guwahati a sizeable section from the lower income group uses the bicycle as their sole mode of transport. From the last couple of years a number of people from the middle income group have taken up cycling as a recreational and endurance sport activity. These people need encouragement for not polluting our air and not congesting our roads,� Akhter said, adding that the government should release an advisory asking people to use cycles whenever possible as cycling is the best mode of transport for short distances in the city.
�It is really appreciated that usage of bicycles has not been restricted in any area/zone, but it will be better if it is mentioned that bicycles should be preferred as a mode of transport for essential work. The departments concerned should be asked to set up covered cycle parking spaces with locking facilities near city bus stops and at various car parking facilities around the city. Commercial and residential complexes, government offices, all educational institutes can also be asked to set up covered cycle parking areas inside their campuses. Due to their small size 6-10 cycles can be parked in the place of one car,� he said.
Akhter also suggested that messages be given through various media to encourage people to follow car-free days once every week or at least once a month. To make the activity more successful people will have to be educated about the benefits of car-free days, he added.
�Traffic and road safety advisories should be released through departments concerned to ask cyclists to follow traffic rules and other motor vehicle users to respect the cyclists� right to use the road,� he said.